Didn’t your child know that going abroad would mean hours of worry and wondering for their dear parents? Why couldn’t they have just stayed safe and sound at home or on campus? These are the questions that may be buzzing through your head as you outwardly shower your son or daughter in support of their decision to venture overseas. There’s no need for you to lose your cool by harassing your child for their whereabouts, forcing them into hours of self-defense classes, or buying them dozens of keychain pepper sprays (no judgment if you want to suggest these in moderation!).
Instead, arm your child with the following basic travel safety tips from GoAbroad and some of the industry’s most experienced travelers that they can follow as they embark on their adventure abroad:
1. Research the country before you go – Global Goose
Being safe and prepared for international travel starts at home. Sit down with your child and research their host country, including dangerous neighborhoods, basic phrases of the local language, etiquette, and common customs. The more research done ahead of time, the more effortless your child’s safety regimen will be; also, meaning more mental space for their meaningful overseas experience!
Encourage them to save photos of maps on their phones or print them out to keep in their bags or wallets. These can go right next to other useful information to keep on-hand at all times, like emergency contacts, passport copies, and useful addresses. Doing stellar preparation is the best way to prevent your child from getting stuck in dubious situations.
2. Enroll in STEP – PINC International
For CEO and Founder of PINC International Lisette Miranda, international travel safety for all participants begins with signing up for the U.S. Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). Both you and your child can register in order to receive travel alerts and warnings throughout their time abroad, even available with the STEP app. Most importantly, registering your child will notify the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate of their status abroad, in case of any emergency.
3. A safe traveler is a healthy traveler – GoAbroad
You and your child may be stressing about all the things to get done before they leave, but don’t discount the importance of them departing in tip-top-shape. While traveling abroad, your child will need to navigate dozens of potential health risks with new water, food, climate, insects, and the occasional temptation to pet (or nose-kiss) the oh-so-cute animals that may cross their paths. Beyond stocking them with emergency supplies, make sure to check the need for any vaccinations.
4. Keep your valuables on you while in transit – Adventurous Kate
Every safe traveler needs that special, pickpocket proof, usually cross-body bag or backpack that will become essentially feel like an extension of their body during their time abroad. When traveling to each destination or from place-to-place, it is of utmost importance that your child keep their valuables bag (and all other luggage) with them at all times. Even if this means sleeping with bags tied to them in a train station or sitting at a restaurant with their bag on their lap, it’s always safest for your child to stay on guard and in alert possession of their belongings.
5. Put away electronics on the street – Nomadic Matt
Walking down the street with podcasts or a personal soundtrack blaring, while skimming articles or snapping a personal selfie, are all too popular in today’s society. When traveling though, encourage your child to put their earbuds and electronics away. These activities are easy signals to pickpockets and other petty criminals that your child is distracted and sparks attention to the location of your child’s beloved (and likely expensive) electronic device. If your child is accustomed to their headphones in or multitasking by reading articles while walking, have them start practicing this new walking style while already home. Who knows, they may just find enjoyment in this new awareness of their surroundings…
6. Smile and say hello – The Expert Vagabond
After years of preaching, “Don’t talk to strangers,” this tip may seem a little counterintuitive. However, with those few words in a foreign language and a friendly face, your child can gain the trust of new friends and neighbors to create their personal community overseas. In addition, receiving an angry response to a smile will alert your child to strangers who might be less trustworthy. Overall, your child should feel comfortable communicating, asking for help, or even confirming “Is this safe?” while overseas, which can start with them smiling and just saying hello.
7. Don’t look (or act) like a target – Alyssa Ramos via Huffington Post
Although it is close to impossible to blend into a different culture entirely, there are some clear ways your child can practice being a chameleon. When packing, use your research to help your child narrow their suitcase contents to clothes that will fit in with local customs or fashion trends and limited valuable jewelry. Also, it’s a good idea to investigate both typical behaviors in your child’s destination, as well as how your home country is perceived.
For example, Americans abroad stereotypically stand out for being loud, brash, and drunk when out at night. While your child should not be afraid of having fun or expressing themselves while abroad, traveling safely calls for them to act and appear within the boundaries of the local culture.
8. Walk with bold confidence, like you know the place – Grrrl Traveler
So much of traveling safely is in acting the part and believing in oneself. Coach your child on walking with their chin up, ears perked, shoulders back, and stride strong, even before they leave home. Whether on the street or on public transportation, during the day or night, it will be important for your child to stay calm, cool, and collected in all situations, including getting lost. If unsure of directions, your child can practice smiling and saying hello before asking for directions, or duck into a shop to pull out their saved photo or tucked away map to consult. Most importantly though, they must maintain that confident persona and convey that attitude of belonging to prevent being a target.
9. Trust your instincts – EVERYONE!
You’ve spent so many years raising your child and cultivating their judgment, now trust them to apply all of those lessons while traveling overseas. Among the entire travel community, the number one travel safety tip is for a traveler to follow their instincts. The best judge of a situation will always be your gut. As your child prepares, strengthen their self-confidence to evaluate a situation, a person, or a place and act according to that instinct. More often than not, it will be right and keep them safe.
As a parent, you can become an active part of your child’s travel safety abroad by starting the conversation pre-departure. While many travel tips out there focus on girls and women, all travelers should adhere to these basic travel safety tips when adventuring away from home. As a result, you will feel more confident that your child is traveling safely, and they will feel more secure and comfortable to explore while traveling abroad.
Want more travel tips to share with your children? Check out GoAbroad’s FAQs for Parents of Travelers
What travel safety tips or tricks have you found most useful for your child overseas or even for yourself when traveling abroad?